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Leadership in Organizational Sustainability

Effective leadership is critical to the success of the governance system and the ability of the organization to meet its objectives. Leadership has been defined as “a process whereby and individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Defining leadership as a process means that it is not a trait or characteristic of the leader. It is like a transactional event that occurs between the leader and the employees. Process implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers. It emphasizes that leadership is not a linear one-way event, but rather an interactional event. When leadership is defined in this way, it becomes available to everyone. It is not restricted to the formally-designated leader in a group!

Leadership is like management in many ways. Leadership involves influence just as management does. Leadership involves working with people which managers do as well. Leadership is concerned with effective objective accomplishment, just as management does. Leadership is concerned with meeting the objects of the organizations, just as a manager would do.

But leadership is also different from management. The characteristics of a leader can be traced back to time of Aristotle. Management emerged around the turn of the 20th century with the surge in attending to our industrialized society. Management was created to reduce disorder in organizations to make them operate more effectively and efficiently. The primary functions of managers are planning, organizing, staffing, and controlling. This applies to most organizational sustainability managers. The overriding function of management is to provide order and consistency to organizations. Management is about seeking order and stability while leadership is about seeking adaptive and constructive change. To be effective, organizations need to nourish both competent management and skilled leadership. This is how we develop organizational sustainability.

Effective leadership is critical to the success of the governance system and the ability of the organization to meet its objectives. Leaders need to address the following actions:

  1. Develop the mission, vision, values, and ethics while acting as a role model

  2. Define, monitor, review, and drive the continual improvement of the organization’s processes and operations

  3. Engage directly with all stakeholders

  4. Reinforce a culture of operational excellence with the organization’s workers

  5. Ensure that the organization is resilient to manage change effectively.

The organization’s leader is dedicated to the organization’s mandate and commitment. The purpose of the mandate is to ensure that the organization clearly understands the benefits of risk management and sustainability and will embrace the change involved by embedding these practices into the way the organization operates every day. It is necessary for the leader to be deeply involved in these programs to establish credibility with the external stakeholders.

Meeting the organization’s objectives is essential to the organization. Operating in an uncertain world makes it more important that the leadership is committed to risk management and organizational sustainability, and that these practices are explicitly recognized in everything the organization does.

Dr. Bob Pojasek

Sustainability Legend | ESG Reporting & Disclosures | Uncertainty Risk | Pollution Prevention Expert | Process Improvement | Organizational Sustainability Reporting | Sustainable Procurement Professor

Chairman, Education and Research Executive Board (EREB)

VCARE Academy Inc.

Managing Director

Center for Corporate Performance & Sustainability


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